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Japan-Based Conservation Organization Kicks Off Inaugural Philippine Shark Study Tour

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TOKYO, Japan -- PangeaSeed, a Japan-based nonprofit conservation organization, is kicking off its inaugural Philippine shark study tour 26 March ‐10 April 2011. PangeaSeed in collaboration with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Philippines and the Thresher Shark Research and Conservation Project will host a not‐for‐profit international research expedition and cross‐culture exchange. The event will aid in the gathering of information and ideas through community outreach and awareness activities to educate and develop a better understanding on the global need to protect sharks and our oceans.

With 70‐100 million sharks slaughtered each year to satisfy the global demand for shark fin soup, considered an Asian delicacy, the expedition will focus on shark preservation and conservation. The United Nations released a report in the spring of 2010 stating that if the mass harvest of sharks continues, global shark populations will disappear in the next ten to twenty years. It is known that sharks now represent the largest number of threatened marine animals on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of threatened species. Furthermore, as an apex predator, sharks play one of the most important roles balancing the delicate ocean ecosystem. Today, over 1 billion people on the planet depend on the oceans as their main source of food and income – if that source disappears, imagine the problems we'll face.

Tokyo‐based PangeaSeed is a non‐profit organization dedicated to educating and raising international understanding of the plight of sharks. PangeaSeed is the first and only organization in Japan to raise public awareness regarding shark conservation and preservation. "In collaboration with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in Donsol and the Thresher Shark Research and Conservation Project in Malapascua, our organization will host an international ecological awareness study tour in two parts 26 March ‐10 April, said Tre' L. Packard, PangeaSeed managing director. "This pioneering tour is the first of its kind for Japan. With the kind and generous support of our sponsors including Aqua Lung scuba gear, Oxford Suites Makati, Reef surf wear and renowned artist Brad Klausen, our group will continue its goal to break down the misconceptions of sharks and help to redirect attention to the urgent environmental needs surrounding our oceans."

The first leg of the tour will guide a group of international attendees to assist PangeaSeed and WWF Donsol marine biologists with whale shark research and data collection. The data collected will be added to an international database shared by researchers and scientists worldwide. These efforts will help to develop a better understanding of the need to preserve and protect the threatened whale shark. Packard added, "Attendees will have the rare opportunity to be in the water with these magnificent animals and study them in their natural state." Additionally, attendees will host a number of cultural exchange events at Donsol schools to educate students on their very unique and special responsibility of whale shark conservation, ocean preservation and how it can directly benefit the local population.

The cultural exchange events will include film screenings, interactive presentations, art workshops and beach clean ups. The PangeaSeed team and the tour attendees will showcase issues surrounding ocean degradation and the plight of sharks in Asia and other parts of the world.

"Donsol, a small municipality in the province of Sorsogon, Philippines, is exceptional because it is one of the only places on Earth where whale sharks congregate in large numbers for very short periods annually," Packard said. Whale sharks are the largest fish on the planet and science is still for the most part in the dark regarding the behavior of these animals. More importantly what is known about the whale shark population is that despite international protection their numbers are quickly declining as a result of overfishing. "Donsol is in a unique position due to local residents choosing sustainability and eco‐tourism over exploitation and extinction. We hope to share and aid their incredible efforts to protect these animals with the world."

For the second leg of the study tour members will move to the tiny Philippine island of Malapascua, recognized for thresher sharks that regularly visit the area. While on Malapascua, PangeaSeed study tour members will assist the Thresher Shark Research and Conservation Project with data collection and monitoring these vulnerable sharks as well as co‐hosting additional culture exchange events with local island students. The Thresher Shark Research and Conservation Project team is an international group of marine biologists and scientists whose mission is to disseminate shark research, education and conservation via scientific outreach activities to audiences both at a local and regional level as well as to the broader international audience.

"It's a significant responsibility but also a privilege to be ambassadors for sharks in Japan," said Packard. "Through our efforts and dedication, this trailblazing study tour will help to raise the greatly needed awareness regarding the global shark plight in key areas such as The Philippines and Japan, where sharks are targeted and overfished for quick economic gain. We are helping to develop and promote a better understanding of the relationship humans have with sharks and our oceans."

About PangeaSeed: PangeaSeed (pangeaseed.com) is a Tokyo‐based non‐profit organization dedicated to educating and raising international awareness on the plight of sharks and the destruction of their habitat. Through volunteer activism, research, and the various mediums of art, music, film, and photography, PangeaSeed aim to create an open dialogue with the global community to develop an understanding of the need to preserve and protect sharks and the oceans. We rely on the generosity of our supporters.

Views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of UnderwaterTimes.com, its staff or its advertisers.


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